Friday, May 31, 2013

Over 9,900, June Litzer of the Month Martin Herbach, Jim Horne's XWord Info Press Conference, Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords, and Funny Typos

We've now litzed more than 9,900 puzzles!  On Sunday, Todd Gross sent in 7, followed by 14 from Nancy Kavanaugh and 7 from Denny Baker.  Then Monday, Martin Herbach sent in another five batches totaling 35 puzzles, followed by 42 (probably the largest puzzle shipment ever!) from Mark Diehl, who put us over the 9,900 mark on the litzing thermometer!  Thanks so much, everybody—it won't be long before we're at 10,000!  (Incidentally, at least one litzer has told me he's hoping to be the one to put us over that milestone—it will be interesting to see who ultimately does it!)

The proofreading is also progressing—on Thursday I received a month of proofed puzzles from Tracy Bennett.  Many thanks again, Tracy!

Tomorrow is June 1, and we now have a new Litzer of the Month:  Martin Herbach!  As I've written about before here,  here, and here, Martin has devised a very effective and fast way of using optical character recognition (OCR) to litz.  Lately he's been sending in batches of 35 puzzles at a time in rapid succession, though recently some subpar PDFs of puzzles have slowed this process down a bit and necessitated manual litzing.  Luckily the poor-quality PDFs are relatively few and far between—there doesn't seem to be any correlation between a puzzle's original publication date and the PDF's clarity.  To read more about Martin, click here or on the Litzer of the Month tab above.

If you haven't read Jim Horne's informative and entertaining 2013 XWord Info Press Conference yet, click here to take a look (and see the mention of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project—thanks, Jim!)!  (I really wonder what got lost due to "technical issues" in those 26-minute initial remarks!)

Last week I wrote about Peter Gordon's Kickstarter campaign for Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords.  As of today, this promising project has reached more than 50% of its funding goal, and there are still 15 more days left to back it!  I have to admit, I was concerned last week when I saw how much more funding was needed, so I increased my pledge (and am looking forward to receiving a cool Fireball Crosswords baseball cap in addition to all the great puzzles!).  Increasing pledges is really easy on Kickstarter—you just log in, go to the project page, and click on "Manage Your Pledge."  Then you type in the amount of your new pledge (which isn't added to your previous pledge—the revised pledge is the total amount you'll be charged if the Kickstarter campaign succeeds).  If you'd like to increase your pledge or learn more about Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords and how to pledge, click here.

My list of funny typos is getting longer and longer, so I thought I'd include a few of the best today:
  • Entry:  CORRS
    • Wrong:  They report for news
    • Right:  They report for. news
  • Entry:  ALAI
    • Wrong:  Part of a front on game
    • Right:  Part of a fronton game
  • Entry:  ILE
    • Wrong:  Marine land
    • Right:  Marne land
  • Entry:  EIGER
    • Wrong:  Peak in the Burmese Alps
    • Right:  Peak in the Bernese Alps
  • Entry:  LPS
    • Wrong:  Disco ducks
    • Right:  Disco disks

Today's featured puzzle (constructor unknown) was originally published on March 24, 1972.  It was edited by Will Weng and recently litzed by Mark Diehl.  As I've continued to review litzed packets of puzzles from the early 70s and late 60s, I've come across many daily puzzles with repeated-word themes.  Some of them have impressive theme entry interlock, but ultimately, the vast majority aren't interesting enough to feature.  This innovative puzzle puts a novel twist on the traditional repeated-word theme—it contains four arrangements in which a theme entry containing the word BUTTER appears to be on top of a theme entry containing BREAD!  The puzzle works on many levels:  The BREAD and BUTTER theme entries are the same length and feel in-the-language, the BUTTER entry is always above or to the right of the BREAD entry, and the theme entries are arranged symmetrically in a pinwheel formation.  In addition, the fill is exceptionally clean—an extraordinary feat, considering that the theme entries are stacked on top of each other!  I especially like the entries DAINTY, DICTATE, SHUSH, and CRUSH!  Among the very few not-so-great entries are ARCT (clued as "North: Prefix"), SIRUP ("Pancake coating: Var." [have you ever seen this spelling outside of crosswords?]), and ASHAKE ("Trembling").  Nevertheless, this daily puzzle is a tour-de-force—the constructor clearly knew which side his solvers' bread was buttered on!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is HELLBOX, which originally appeared in the November 28, 1970, crossword (constructor unknown).  This puzzle was edited by Will Weng and recently litzed by Denny Baker.  According to the Ginsberg clue database, HELLBOX has never been used in a Shortz-era puzzle.  This unusual entry was clued as "Printer's trashcan"; Webster defines it as "a receptacle into which a printer throws damaged or discarded type material."  The printing industry has lots of bizarre slang—I'll be featuring another typographical oddity next week!  For now, below is a picture of a hellbox:

Image courtesy of

Friday, May 24, 2013

1983 Puzzles Up, 178 More Puzzles Put Us Over 9,800, In 1967, Daily Puzzle Authors Return, Albert J. Klaus, and Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords

Great news:  The proofread 1983 puzzles are up on XWord Info, and we're now busy proofreading 1982!  As more and more pre-Shortzian puzzles have been uploaded, Jim Horne has continued to expand the "Selected pre-Shortz observations" section of XWord Info.  He now has lists of the pre-Shortzian rebus puzzles, fewest and most block records, asymmetrical puzzles, pangrams, most common entries (and most common entries unique to pre-Shortzian puzzles), Sundays by title, and constructors!  I encourage everyone to check out these awesome lists (which are rapidly expanding)—to do so, just scroll down to the bottom of the main page of XWord Info.

This week a whopping 178 more puzzles came in, putting us over 9,800!  Early Saturday, Mike Buckley sent in 7 Will Weng–edited puzzles that had periods after the clues for the daily puzzles.  In his e-mail, Mike quipped, "Should we call them 'period pieces'?"  Saturday night, Howard Barkin sent in 21 puzzles, followed a short while later by 35 more puzzles from Martin Herbach.  On Sunday, Jeffrey Krasnick sent in 7; later that night, Mark Diehl sent in 14, putting us over 9,700!  Monday evening, Todd McClary sent in 7 puzzles, which were followed on Tuesday by 7 from Denny Baker.  On Thursday, Barry Haldiman sent in 7, Martin sent 35 more, and then late that night, Mark sent in another 34 puzzles, putting us at 9,799 and his own personal total at more than 2,700!  I added in 4 of my own, so we're now at 9,803!  Thanks so much, everyone—terrific job!

We're also now in 1967, another tumultuous year.  Here's a graphic representation of the hippie counterculture movement during the Summer of Love, which, according to Wikipedia, was "a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, initiating a major cultural and political shift":

Image courtesy of

In other news, I'm thrilled to announce that daily puzzle authors have returned!  We've had a long spell with next to no daily puzzle authors, but this morning I sent out 10 packets from 1967 that almost all included the daily puzzle authors.  It's been a bit disheartening having to list the authors for so many puzzles as "Unknown," so I'm really glad those data are available again for a good percentage of the Farrar dailies!

Jim Horne noticed that there are already 115 pre-Shortzian puzzles by Albert J. Klaus.  I was able to dig up an obituary for someone by that name in Florida but haven't been able to find any other information about him.  If anyone remembers anything about this very prolific constructor, please let me know.

I'm really excited about Peter Gordon's Kickstarter campaign for Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords!  I already subscribe to Fireball Crosswords and like them a lot—they're always really interesting and challenging puzzles.  So when I found out about this new venture, which will feature 20 current events crosswords in which many puzzle answers will be taken from current news, I signed up right away!  I'm even more interested in this Fireball project because one of the things I like best about the pre-Shortzian puzzles of the Farrar era is that many of them reflected events and attitudes from the times in which they were written.  I've gotten something of an education from them, and I'm looking forward to learning more about current events in the most fun way possible—through great crossword puzzles!

Today's featured puzzle, titled "Arithmetricks," was constructed by Alfio Micci and edited by Will Weng.  It was originally published on October 3, 1971, and was recently litzed by Mark Diehl.  This exceptionally unusual puzzle features twelve symmetrically interlocking math problems!  The symbols (+, –, x, and ÷) actually appear in the grid, and the clues for these math problems are the answers.  For example, the clue "4" leads to SEVEN – THREE; similarly, "1/2" leads to SIX ÷ TWELVE.  I like how deceptive this gimmick is—even after a solver figures out that the theme entries are all elementary math problems, there's no way to know exactly what the problem will be (or even which operation will be used) until some of the crossings are filled in.  I also like that some of the multiplication signs read as ordinary x's—this not only allowed the constructor to get all the theme entries to interlock symmetrically but also added a fun new twist to an already wacky puzzle!  This puzzle exemplifies Will Weng's willingness to push the envelope and publish gimmicks that might not be universally well received.  I wouldn't be surprised if Weng got piles of letters from traditionalist solvers complaining that the gimmick didn't fit the definition of a crossword puzzle, as Margaret Farrar did when she published Bernice Gordon's novel ampersand rebus.

I have to admit that the nonthematic fill in this off-the-wall masterpiece is a mixed bag.  Some of the highlights include ERSATZ, SHRIEKS, CHARLOTTE, HOGGED, and ENCHANT.  The puzzle does have its share of iffy abbreviations and "mystery" entries, though, such as TRS (clued as "Train rails: Abbr."), GOSE ("Japanese town"), UINAL ("Mayan month"), TULU ("Dravidian Indian"), NHANG ("Tai people"), and OASI ("Insurance abbr.").  Even though this puzzle has some questionable fill, it's certainly one of the most interesting pre-Shortzian puzzles I've seen so far!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

I've been keeping track of the most clever clues that have jumped out at me as I've looked through the Will Weng–edited puzzles.  Here's an octad of my favorites:
  • "Air-conditioning, so to speak" (COLD COMFORT)
  • "Liquid assets of a sort" (WATER BEDS)
  • "Perishables for Jan. 1" (RESOLUTIONS)
  • "Breath unfreshener" (GARLIC)
  • "Clip joint" (BARBERSHOP)
  • "Dog's worst friend" (FLEA)
  • "Dig this" (ORE)
  • "Gnuisance" (GNAT)
Unfortunately, I haven't been seeing as many clever clues as we continue back into the early Weng/late Farrar times.  Litzer Jeffrey Krasnick remarked in an e-mail, "I guess clever clues are now a thing of the past (or future)."  There are certainly a handful of gems from the early days, though.  If you've come across any other clever early Weng/Farrar clues, please comment!  Below is a picture of some breath unfresheners:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Contest Results, 186 More Litzed Puzzles, and Laurence Perrine

The winner of last week's "A Challenge from the Army" contest was litzer Doug Peterson!  Doug correctly solved the puzzle and will receive a free Puzzazz e-book of his choice—congratulations, Doug!  There were six other correct entries submitted, along with some incorrect or incomplete ones, and everyone seemed to enjoy this pre-Shortzian challenge.  Thanks again to Jim Horne for hosting the puzzle on XWord Info and to Roy Leban for donating the Puzzazz e-book!

An interesting note about this puzzle is that there was an error in the Times's published solution to the grid.  The incorrect entries were DEEIDE/SEAT, which I changed to DECIDE/SCAT.  All submitted contest entries contained DECIDE/SCAT—the correct solution appears below:

Also, Jim Horne wondered whether it might be possible to track down Privates Laurence D. Perrine and Henry F. Holbrook after all these years.  Although I wasn't able to find anything about Henry F. Holbrook, I did find a Wikipedia page about a Laurence Perrine (1915–1995), who was a professor of English Literature at Southern Methodist University and, according to Wikipedia, "the basis for the fictitious poetry textbook author J. Evans Pritchard in the movie Dead Poets Society."  He was also known for his books of limericks.  I don't know whether this was the same Laurence Perrine, but he may well have been.

On the litzing front, we had a phenomenal week—186 more puzzles came in!  Last Friday, right after the post went up, Mark Diehl sent in 19, putting his litzed total at more than 2,600!  Then on Saturday, Denny Baker sent in 7 puzzles, followed on Sunday by 7 from Todd McClary and 35 from Martin Herbach, who put us over 9,500!  On Monday, Mark sent in 34 more puzzles, and Denny sent in 7 more.  Then on Tuesday, Martin sent in 35 more, followed by 7 on Wednesday from Todd Gross and 7 from Jeffrey Krasnick.  Thursday Joe Cabrera sent in 7, putting us over 9,600!  Finally, Thursday night Mark sent in another 21!  This is certainly way up there with the totals during litzing contests—awesome job, everybody!  It won't be long before we're at 10,000!

Today's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was originally published on October 31, 1972.  It was edited by Will Weng and was recently litzed by Mike Buckley.  This tour de force is relatively light on theme entries, but the ingenuity of the theme and the wide-open grid certainly make up for it.  The two main theme entries are APPLE TURNOVERS and UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE—the catch is that both these entries are INVERTED and read from top to bottom!  Reversing the direction of particular grid entries is a theme that has grown and developed throughout the pre-Shortzian and Shortz eras (such as in this puzzle featured a few months ago).  I have yet to see an earlier example of theme-entry reversal.  Anyway, this puzzle's mild theme density allowed the constructor to include many fresh and lively entries in the nonthematic fill—some of my favorites include TRES BIEN, TAKES ON, EXEMPTS, and CATER TO!  I'm not as fond of the four six-letter-plus partials (SAIL ON O, A RAGE TO, AUTO DA, and A SENSE); nevertheless, I'm sure solvers enjoyed this tricky treat on Halloween 1972 just as much as I did on May 17, 2013!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian entry is PHANTASMAGORIAL, which, according to the Ginsberg database, has never been reused in a Shortz-era puzzle.  PHANTASMAGORIAL originally appeared in the March 24, 1971, puzzle (constructor unknown), which was edited by Will Weng and recently litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick.  The clue for PHANTASMAGORIAL was "Like some dreams"; Webster's online dictionary does not contain a definition for this word.  It seems that The New York Times might have been in error—accepted forms of the adjective are limited to phantasmagoric and phantasmagorical.  My Webster word list in Crossword Compiler contains phantasmagorial; regardless, the clue for this entry should have at least contained a variant tag.  In any case, the primary definition of a phantasmagoria is "an exhibition of optical effects and illusions."  Its derivation can be traced back to the French roots fantasme and agorie.  Webster mentions that agorie might come from the Greek agora, a repeater in both pre-Shortzian and Shortz-era crosswords!  Below is a picture of a phantasmagori(c)al fractal:

Image courtesy of Tech Tips 4 Educators.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Over 9,400, Funny Typos, and a Challenge from the Army

We made great progress this week!  On Sunday, Todd McClary and Denny Baker each sent in batches of 7 puzzles.  Then on Monday, Martin Herbach sent in five batches totaling 35 puzzles and putting us over the 9,400 mark, followed by Mark Diehl with another 21!  On Tuesday, Nancy Kavanaugh sent in 14 more, bringing the grand total for the week to 84 puzzles!  I'm hoping this week we'll reach 9,500, even though it's a very busy time for many of us.  Thanks so much, everyone!

It's been a while since I've posted funny litzing typos, though I've certainly had plenty to add to the list!  Here are ten recent typos:
  • Entry:  CORK
    • Right:  Party popper
    • Wrong:  Party pooper
  • Entry:  SALE
    • Right:  Yard or garage event
    • Wrong:  Yard or garbage event
  • Entry:  PRETENSE
    • Right:  Affectation
    • Wrong:  Affection
  • Entry:  MOODS
    • Right:  Indicative and subjunctive
    • Wrong:  Indicative and subjective
    • Right:  Albatross slayer
    • Wrong:  Albatross slaver
  • Entry:  NOLL
    • Right:  Steelers' coach
    • Wrong:  Steelers' couch
  • Entry:  SPRAWLED
    • Right:  Lounged clumsily
    • Wrong:  Lunged clumsily
  • Entry:  TKOS
    • Right:  Part of Ali's rec.
    • Wrong:  Art of Ali's rec.
  • Entry:  AS IS
    • Right:  Sale condition
    • Wrong:  Sale conditioner
  • Copyright Field
    • Right:  © 1971, The New York Times.  Editor: Will Weng.
    • Wrong:  © 1871, The New York Times.  Editor: Will Weng. [Will Weng wasn't even born yet in 1871!]
Today's featured puzzle (constructor unknown) was published on December 10, 1971, edited by Will Weng, and litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  This bizarre masterpiece features four interlocking 15-letter entries that relate to rainbows:  8-Down (RED ORANGE YELLOW) and 19-Across (GREEN BLUE VIOLET) list the colors of the rainbow in order, 46-Across is REFRACTED COLORS, and 4-Down is AFTER 40 DAYS RAIN (clued as "When Noah might have seen a rainbow").  I'm amazed that the constructor thought of four theme entries that intersect each other so elegantly; also, I'm impressed by how seamlessly the constructor got the numbers to fit in with the nonthematic fill.  As we continue back into 1971, I'm seeing fewer and fewer puzzles with such elegant gimmicks; this one has a theme that's far ahead of its time!  The nonthematic fill is nice on the whole as well—I especially like the entries SEE NO/EVIL, HAVOC, and 1040 (how often do you get to see this entry show up in a crossword?)!  I'm not as fond of DROGHER ("Fish-smoking ship"), CUGATS ("Xavier and family"), or TIED AND ("___ dyed (did a coloring job)"), but nevertheless, this is a phenomenal pre-Shortzian puzzle!  I hope to see at least a few more unusual themes like this one as we head into the mostly themeless Farrar era.  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

While I was litzing some 1942 Sundays, I came across a variety crossword titled "A Challenge from the Army."  What makes this puzzle stand out is that its two constructors were actual soldiers in W.W. II!  The byline read as follows:

By Privates Laurence D. Perrine and Henry F. Holbrook
Battery B, Sixth Battalion.  Fort Eustis, Virginia

I'm not sure what category to place this puzzle in—it feels like a cross between a straight crossword, a Puns and Anagrams, and a cryptic!  Since this puzzle is so unique, I've decided to make it a contest.  One randomly selected solver who e-mails a screen capture or the Across Lite of the correct solution to preshortzianpuzzleproject at gmail dot com (using standard formatting) by 6 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, May 17, will win a complimentary e-book courtesy of Puzzazz!  To download the puzzle, which Jim Horne has generously agreed to host on XWord Info and which does not include the solution, click here.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Miriam Raphael's Maleska Stories, Helene Hovanec's "Creative Cruciverbalists," May Litzer of the Month Vic Fleming, Herbert L. Risteen Article, Another Litzing Script, Over 9,300—and in 1968 and the Farrar Era!

Several weeks ago I received an e-mail from master solver and crossword editor Miriam (Mimi) Raphael (whose National Puzzlers' League nom is Ditto).  Mimi won first place in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 1979 and first place in the Seniors Division 18 times between 1988 and 2011.  She had some Maleska stories she thought I might be interested in—and I was!  With her permission, they appear below, followed by a photo of the Fairfield County Puzzlers:
Back in the 1980s and '90s, there was a group of puzzle people—Will Shortz and a number of constructors and others interested in crosswords—in this area that called themselves the Fairfield County Puzzlers, after Fairfield County, Connecticut, where most of them lived.  I was actually just across the border in Westchester, New York, but I was a member, anyway.  Will Shortz was our leader—he was not puzzle editor of The New York Times in those days.  Norton Rhoades, who had been a school principal in Stamford, Connecticut, was a member, as was Stephanie Spadaccini, Maura Jacobson, and a few others whose names you might be familiar with.

We met every other month, as I remember, and one time decided to have a Maleska Roast (to which he was not invited).  Everyone was encouraged to bring a nasty letter they had received from Eugene.  I had one.  Through a strange combination of circumstances, I was editing a series of puzzle books—Champion Crosswords, for Simon & Schuster.  There were eight books published in the series before it died.  When Margaret Farrar found out about it, she was very helpful.  One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to be gentle with constructors when I had to refuse their puzzles.  This was their "baby," she reminded me, and they sent it to me with many hopes and misgivings.  I took her advice seriously and once even received a thank-you note for a letter I had written to a constructor explaining why I couldn't use her puzzle—it wasn't very good, but I didn't say that in so many words.

Maleska, on the other hand, returned Maura Jacobson's early effort with, "You have a long way to go before you're ready to submit to the NY Times."  I received a letter from Maleska saying, "It has come to my attention that you are editing Crossword Puzzle Books for Simon & Schuster.  What are your credentials to be a crossword puzzle editor?"  I responded (and this was my letter in full) that "my credentials were sufficient for my publisher to offer me a contract," and I didn't hear from him again.

Just about everyone at that Fairfield County Puzzlers meeting at my house had a similar nasty letter from the great Eugene M.  We had a great time!

The Fairfield County Puzzlers on Miriam Raphael's front porch.  Front row:  Miriam Raphael, Stan Newman, Mark Oshin, Robert Carroll, Unknown.  Second row:  Doug Heller, Nancy Schuster, Bonnie Sirower, Unknown, Grace Frary, Will Shortz.  Back rows:  Unknown, Norman Landis, Halloween Man, Mike Shenk, Evie Eysenburg, Robin Landis, Ted Fishman, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Ed Snarski. 

Thanks so much, Mimi!  (And thanks, too, to Will Shortz and Stan Newman for helping to identify some of the people in the photo!  If anyone else knows who the remaining "Unknowns" are, please contact me.)

Coincidentally, I've been reading a wonderful book I recently found out about that offers a few quite different impressions of Maleska.  Helene Hovanec's Creative Cruciverbalists contains fascinating profiles of many pre-Shortzian constructors, and the one for Karen Hodge notes that "Hodge submitted several puzzles to Maleska, who although rejecting them, kept on encouraging her for he felt that she showed a flair for constructing."  When he finally accepted one of Hodge's puzzles, Hovanec writes:  "His congratulatory note, which elated her, began:  'Your avian opus is certainly not for the birds.'"

Similarly, the profile of Henry Hook shows another side of Maleska, who was so impressed with Hook's initial submission that he offered "to critique his crosswords and send him a style sheet (which Hook hadn't known existed)."  In fact, Hovanec writes, as "Hook developed under Maleska's tutelage, Maleska further assisted him by sending his work to other editors."

And the profile of Maleska himself is truly amazing.  Maleska's own puzzles did not meet with immediate acceptance.  His first efforts, which he sent to the Herald Tribune, were repeatedly rejected:
Maleska remembers the route he traveled:  "First I bought the newspaper every day and studied the style of the puzzle very carefully.  Months later I submitted my first professional effort—and held my breath.  I had enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope, but did not bother to write an accompanying letter.  I had too much amour propre to plead.  My bubble of self-esteem burst abruptly.  Not even a formal rejection slip!  I was tempted to give up right then and there.  But persistence emerged to take the place of pride. . . .  I set some sort of record for initial failure—over forty rejections from a silent editor in a two-year period!"
Even more surprising to me was learning that Maleska actually tried to "jazz up" the clues in his puzzles:
He vividly remembers the first puzzle in which he "broke the log jam."  "'Nest' was defined as 'Nutcracker's suite' and the clue for 'noon' was 'When both hands are up.'  For 'ironer' the solvers were confronted with 'He has pressing problems.'"
And the first stepquote Maleska published, under Margaret Farrar, created a furor, with very polarized reactions on the parts of solvers.

Maleska seems to have been someone with many different sides—he could be arrogant and harsh with some constructors but was also apparently very encouraging to others.  And although the "educational" aspect to his puzzles could be stifling, some of his innovations, such as with cluing and stepquotes, were very creative.

In other news, I'm delighted to announce that Vic Fleming is the May Litzer of the Month!  To read about "Judge Vic," click here or on the Litzer of the Month tab above.

Also, I was thrilled to get an e-mail from litzer and proofreader Todd Gross on Wednesday about an article he'd found on pre-Shortzian constructor Herbert L. Risteen.  Todd had been reading the interview with Litzer of the Month Vic Fleming, who mentions the entry VIC SEIXAS, and remembered that he'd seen Vic Seixas mentioned in an article he'd read about Risteen.  I've now linked to this article from the Pre-Shortzian Constructors page; to read it, click on the link there or go directly to the Risteen article here.  Thanks so much, Todd!  If anyone else comes across articles on pre-Shortzian constructors, please let me know.

Herbert L. Risteen.  Image courtesy of
The Milwaukee Journal

Last week I wrote about the litzing script Martin Herbach had sent me, and today I just received some additional information from him::

fyi, the following one-line sed script merges any line that doesn't begin with a number, with its previous line:

sed ":a; $!N;s/\n\([^0-9]\)/ \1/;ta;P;D" fromfile >tofile

It took a bit of messing with before I got it working.  It's for gnu sed on windows.  Other sed versions will take some syntax  changes.  I'm not an osx expert, so I have no idea what sed is built-in or available.

As you can tell, I hate doing something manually that can be automated.  I run it right after the ocr.

Thanks again, Martin!

It's been a very busy week on the litzing front, with some huge puzzle shipments!  On Sunday, Mark Diehl sent in 21 puzzles; Jeffrey Krasnick, 7; and Todd McClary, 7.  The next day, Mike Buckley sent in 6, and then on Wednesday, Martin Herbach sent in five batches totaling 33 puzzles.  Early today, Mark sent in 35 puzzles—putting us over 9,300 on the litzing thermometer!—and then three hours later, Martin sent in another five batches totaling 35 puzzles!  And on the proofreading front, Tracy Bennett, Todd Gross, and Kristena Bergen all sent in lots of proofread puzzles.  Thanks so much, everybody—awesome job!

One final piece of news:  We're now in the Margaret Farrar era, where we'll remain till the very end!  We're also now in 1968, a very eventful, dark time in history.  On the lighter side, here's a photo from the sketch comedy TV show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which debuted on January 22, 1968:

Image courtesy of

Today's featured pre-Shortzian puzzle (constructor unknown) was edited by Will Weng, litzed by Mark Diehl, and originally published on August 11, 1972.  It features a mind-blowing 11 symmetrically interlocking theme entries . . . based on the entry NUDIST CAMP!  The theme clues are a riot—here are a few of the wackier ones:  NUDIST CAMP [15 Across] (clued as "Mosquito heaven"), NUDES PAPER ("House organ of 15 Across?"), RAW DEAL ("Poker round at 15 Across"), CLOTHES ("Eyesores at 15 Across"), GAZA STRIP ("Locale of 15 Across?"), and BARE HANDS ("The help, at 15 Across").  This puzzle exemplifies Weng's sense of humor and willingness to publish surprising, bizarre-but-awesome themes!  Unfortunately, we don't have the constructor for this outré masterpiece; however, based on all the authored Weng puzzles I've seen, I'm guessing this puzzle was by master cruciverbalist A. J. Santora.  A. J. Santora was known for his ability to fit an incredible amount of theme entries into a daily-sized grid.

Regardless of who the constructor was, he or she did a great job filling around the 11 theme entries, and I noticed that even the ordinary clues feel a bit more playful than normal.  Some of the more interesting nonthematic entries include I'M GAME, the combination of CAESAR and CESAR, and the combination of DARNS and DAMNED; interesting nonthematic clues include "Taffy event" for PULL and "Wields a needle" for DARNS.  There are some clues and entries that elicited a "Sound of anguish" (GROAN) from me:  BLS ("Beer containers: Abbr."), ORDU ("Turkish army corps"), IRAK (Baghdad's land: Var."), APAR ("Armadillo"), PLUVIAL ("Showery"), SMUT clued as "Plant disease," BRUH ("Macaque of East Indies"), ASEM ("Old gold alloy"), and ACCA ("Old silk brocade").  Nevertheless, this is a brilliant and fun pre-Shortzian puzzle!  The answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below:

Today's featured pre-Shortzian clue is almost as risqué as the featured puzzle!  It originally appeared in the March 27, 1976, puzzle by H. Hastings Reddall, which was edited by Will Weng and litzed by Nancy Kavanaugh.  The clue for TOPLESS read "Like some waitresses."  This clue feels slightly off-color—I'm pretty sure that, of all the pre-Shortzian editors, Will Weng would've been the only one to allow it!  I can see that Maleska used much less suggestive clues for this entry ("Extremely high" and "' . . . ___ towers of Ilium': Marlowe."  Below is a picture of the seemingly topless Mt. Everest:

Image courtesy of Mount Everest Summit Climb.